In a previous post I shared some of my research on the remaining earthquake risk of Port-au-Prince in Haiti. The main conclusion was that the earthquake which occurred in 2010 can not reasonably be assumed to be followed by a long period of earthquake tranquility. Geological and paleoseismic evidence suggests that the expected “Port-au-Prince earthquake,” (as opposed to the “Leogane earthquake” which occured in 2010), is still very much expected. I therefore conducted a simulation of the expected damage given the very plausible event of a magnitude 7.0 rupture of a 40km segment of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault (EPGF). This reasonable event would likely cause over twice the damage of the 2010 earthquake, which killed over 200,000 people. These very troubling results point to the need to take earthquake risk reduction very seriously in the reconstruction process of the city, and in all future planning processes.

I have since then put together some additional images to better demonstrate the significance of the remaining earthquake hazard. It was also an opportunity to demonstrate some of the tools I’ve been developing with Google Earth Engine. First the images and discussion, then some explanations about the process of producing them.


Predicted ground shaking intensity from the 2010 earthquake.


Predicted ground shaking intensity due to the rupture of the EPGF.












Difference in ground shaking intensity between the two scenarios above.


Satellite image of Haiti, showing the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.











The images above clearly show that in the dense urban area of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan zone, the ground shaking resulting from the hypothetical (and plausible) rupture of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault segment is much more intense than the shaking predicted to have occurred during the 2010 earthquake (there were no recordings so all shaking is estimated). The third image in particular shows the difference in predicted peak ground acceleration between the two scenarios. The yellow shows areas where the shaking from the EPGF rupture is higher than that predicted from the 2010 event. This area includes virtually all the urban area of Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.


  • It is imperative that the reconstruction process truly sets the path towards safer building construction in Port-au-Prince, and in the rest of the country where the earthquake hazard is high.
  • To all my friends who are still working on reconstruction in Haiti (yes there is still lots of work to be done, as expected from any major disaster), please get your house assessed by an engineer who knows about seismic design. Take their advise seriously (I know this is hard to do), and change homes if you need. Get your organizations to evaluate each of their offices and staff housing as well. I know that many sophisticated organizations (who should know better!) have failed to do this.

A note on the analysis with Google Earth Engine:

In order to produce these maps I used a new-ish tool produced by google called Earth Engine. It is essentially an enormous repository of geospatial data, as well as an analysis platform for that data (petabytes of data and thousands of servers for analysis!). A colleague and I were awarded a Google Research Award to use it to test out some ideas.  We’re looking to use it for efficient earthquake risk analysis of cities over time. For now, I’ve used it to get predicted ground motion intensity based on an assumed fault rupture. It’s relatively simple, but Google Earth Engine enables me to do the analysis on the fly and at any resolution. It’s been very fun to play with, and I’m excited about all the other exciting applications I’ll be using it for.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


1 2
March 15th, 2019

10 Years of Earth Challenge

With all the hype since the beginning of 2019 around the #10yearchallenge, I gave an optional assignment to my students […]

January 12th, 2019

Remaining Earthquake Risk in Southern Haiti

Updating a post I had written 2 years ago. Still relevant. Today marks the 9th year since the Southern part […]

December 2nd, 2018

Informing Equitable Disaster Recovery: More than just economic losses

By Sabine Loos About a month ago, I was standing in front of a small conference room presenting to a […]

June 12th, 2018

Rapid Assessment of Disaster-Induced Vulnerability in Nepal – Report from 1st Planning Trip

Last month I spent a week in Nepal setting up an exciting project with collaborators at Kathmandu Living Labs. The […]

April 19th, 2018

Before the Great San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake

Before the Great San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake Today is the 112th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, an […]

September 11th, 2017

“Natural Hazards, Un-natural Disasters” – On Hurricane Irma, Harvey and Others

There is no such thing as a natural disaster, only natural hazard. That’s because the impact of hurricanes, earthquakes and […]

February 20th, 2017

Darwin’s account of the 1835 earthquake in Concepción, Chile

On Feb 20th 1835, a large earthquake (estimated M8.1-8.2) shook the cities of Concepción and Talcuahano in Chile, and generated […]

January 13th, 2017

Remaining Risk 7 yrs After the Haiti Earthquake

Today marks the 7th year since the Southern part of Haiti was shook by a devastating 7.0M earthquake. The earthquake […]

April 18th, 2016

110 years ago today: the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

110 years ago today (April 18th 1906), the San Francisco Bay Area shook violently from the magnitude 7.8 rupture of […]

February 26th, 2015

Remaining Earthquake Risk of Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Updated maps with Google Earth Engine

In a previous post I shared some of my research on the remaining earthquake risk of Port-au-Prince in Haiti. The main […]